Friday, July 11, 2008


Not too long ago I spouted off about "Spring Break Mission Trips" in my Bible Study class. A few were a little taken aback: how could I disparage going to Mexico and doing good things? especially teenagers doing good things? I backed off somewhat. I'm sure there are many who do these trips who grow personally and spiritually from their sacrifice.

Now check out this from the Washington Post:

Not long ago, the families of Fairfax Presbyterian Church spent thousands of dollars to fly their teens to Mexico for eight days of doing good. They helped build homes and refurbish churches as part of an army of more than 1 million mostly Christians who annually go on short-term international mission trips to work and evangelize in poverty-stricken lands.

Yet even as those trips have increased in popularity, they have come under increased scrutiny. A growing body of research questions the value of the trips abroad, which are supposed to bring hope and Christianity to the needy of the world, while offering American participants an opportunity to work in disadvantaged communities, develop relationships and charge up their faith.

Critics scornfully call such trips “religious tourism” undertaken by “vacationaries.” Some blunders include a wall built on the children’s soccer field at an orphanage in Brazil that had to be torn down after the visitors left. In Mexico, a church was painted six times during one summer by six different groups. In Ecuador, a church was built but never used because the community said it was not needed. (read the rest here

HT: Mark Sticherz at GetReligion (who notes that the article fails to mention the other purpose of Mission Trips--evangelization.)


  1. Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

    On the whole, I agree with the point of your post, Pr. Hall. But here's another perspective...

    My son John is leading a group of three others to serve at the orphanage in Ukraine where he lived for three months last fall. I'm under no illusion that this trip, or even his 3 months, necessarily changes anything there permanently. What it *does* change is how the folks who've gone, view life. They can be a little less self-centered. Those orphanages now have quite an advocate in my son, who raises money to help the kids there have a better life.

    Another benefit for him and the members of his team is to see how the Church there and her services are the same as they are here.

    Maybe when these trips are used rightly, they're like prayer. They're meant to change *us*.

  2. Anonymous said...

    How can these trips be successful at evangelization if these teens can't speak the local language?

  3. Rev. Eric J Brown said...

    Also, I would note that 3 months in the Ukraine is a bit different than a week-long trip. 3 months at any of these places would be beneficial just for the fact that you would have to live with these people and share their lives.

    It becomes service and love instead of American ego thinking, "Ah, we happy Americans will come in and make things so much better for you poor people".

  4. Christopher D. Hall said...

    Yes, Fr. Gregory, there is a great difference with what John is doing to serve brothers and sisters and what the Spring break teenyboppers and yuppie housewives do when they go to Mexico, live in a resort hotel, and then build hovels for families during the day and believe they are doing "mission" work and converting the poor non-Christians to evangelicalism, never mind that the poor natives went to mass three times the week before.